SNP To Meet Palestinian President And Israeli Politicians

26 October 2006
Scottish National Party MEP and Europe Spokesman Alyn Smith will this week (Friday) travel to Israel and Palestine as part of a European Parliament fact finding delegation to the region. The delegation has been organised by the President of the Parliament's International Development Committee.

During the 5 day visit Mr Smith will witness first hand the impact of the recent conflict in the region and see the level of EU involvement both with the stalled peace process and with aid and development in the area.

The five day visit includes meetings with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost relatives in the conflict. (See Note to Editors for further details)

Speaking before he left for the region Mr Smith said,

"It frustrated me beyond expression this summer that so many of us in Scotland could do little more than sit on the sidelines and wring our hands as the bombs and rockets fell on Lebanon and Israel. The opportunity to go to the region, to see for myself and to see what help we can offer is one I am more than happy to take up.

"The European Parliament represents the biggest aid donor to the region and has a significant role to play in encouraging dialogue. Just as importantly, the information we will be able to obtain from this visit will be vital for us in working out the Parliament's future role in aid and negotiations.

"Especially important to me is the fact that I will not just be speaking to politicians from both sides but also Palestinian and Israeli families caught up in the conflict.

"I look to other countries like Norway, Ireland, Finland and Sweden and their efforts to bring peace to various troubled parts of the world and feel envy and frustration at Scotland's lack of voice. Norway was in a position to assist in the Lebanon and it's involvement in the Middle East led to the "roadmap" which is still the only even potentially workable blueprint for a peaceful resolution to the regions problems.

"Scotland could play the same role. We are well liked, have an international reputation for integrity and straight dealing and are ideally placed to be an honest international broker. And yet without our own place in the world we are tied into a London government, shackled to a nuclear agenda, beholden to the arms trade and increasingly disliked across the world. Scotland could do so much better."

"The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis is not confined to the Middle East, it affects the rest of the world. Global terrorism owes much to the continuing poison in the region, and only through dialogue will we ever have a shot at resolving it.

"I'm daunted by the trip but immensely looking forward to it."

ENDS

Note to Editors

The highlights of the draft programme are:

  • Briefing with European Commission delegation and the consulates concerned in Jerusalem;
  • Meeting with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council of various political groups and with the Union of the public sector workers;
  • Meeting in Ramallah with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority; Meeting with Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees;
  • Meeting with combatants for peace - Palestinian and Israeli group of former soldiers and former Palestinian fighters;
  • Meeting with B'Tselem and other human rights NGOs;
  • Visit to Qalqilya and Haifa, visiting the Wall and part of the town stricken by katiusha rockets;
  • Meeting with the Mayor of Haifa;
  • Meeting with members of the "The Parents Circle- the Families Forum", bereaved families supporting reconciliation and peace;
  • Visit to Shifa Hospital and Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza; and
  • Meeting with member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset.